As we left the club and stepped out onto the corner of Wabash and 8th at 10:30pm on a blistering cold Sunday night, a simple word stood out in my mind; WOW! I've seen Buddy Guy on TV, I've seen him in Grant Park, heck I've even seen him play an impromptu guest appearance at his club, but this was different.
As we posted last week, every January Buddy plays shows at his club, Legend's (754 S. Wabash). This was our first time taking in one of those annual shows and it was simply amazing. Yes we're a sucker for live music anywhere, but this place is special and in our opinion is one of the great cultural places in the Sloop. There is only one club in the country that is owned by Buddy Guy and it's a honor that it's in the South Loop and will be for the foreseeable future (see old Sloopin post about the club moving up the street).
If you've never been to this club, it's what a blues club should be. You might not notice this by witnessing the building from the outside or simply looking at the interior. But when you're inside, listening to some live music, you know this is what blues is about.
As is usual for most of the January shows this one was sold-out. When we arrived at the club it was already packed. Real fans know that you need to get there when the doors open to ensure you get a table and a great view of Buddy and his band. On Saturday, this meant super fans were outside tailgating and if I'm not mistaken I even saw a tent (did they sleep overnight outside of the club? I'm not sure).
When we got inside there was a certain buzz of anticipation in the air. Yes it was wild-card weekend in the NFL, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the reason for the energy in the room. At 7:30, the opening act took the stage. Guy King & his little big band played a great set for about an hour. The group was impressive with a larger then average band including the prerequisites (lead guitar, bass, drum) and some great additional components (piano, trumpet and two saxes). A very cohesive sound and set energized the crowd for the main event.
At 9pm a local DJ introduced the legend to a thunderous roar from the crowd as Buddy burst onto the stage wearing a bright orange suit with black trim, a black hat, some stylish black Pumas and his infamously mischievous smile. From there on out it was a show! The man might be getting up there in terms of years (73 years young), but to be honest it's tough to tell. He's a pro and it's obvious that he has been doing this for awhile based on his stage presence and banter with the crowd.
Although there were various memorable one liners throughout the night, one conversation with a lady in the crowd stood out (but can't be told here due to vulgar language and some absurdly funny quotes). Buddy's obviously not a comedian, however his songs, dialogue, facial contortions and demeanor definitely would have you thinking otherwise. I've been to a fair share of rock shows and have never laughed as much as I did last night. Besides the comedic element that is present throughout the show, his signature guitar skills continue to be sharp and fun. Whether it's playing the guitar with his mouth, a drum stick or his shirt it's all very entertaining. We can't forget the signature Buddy guy 'solo around the room tour', where Buddy leaves the stage and weaves in and out of the standing room only crowd to ensure everyone feels part of the show.
The set list wasn't too exotic, but it was still fun. A mix of Buddy Guy originals such as "Damn right, I've got the blues" and "Skin Deep" as well as classic blues covers such as "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Boom Boom". He also referenced his 'good friend' Eric Clapton and broke out into a fun cover of Cream's "Strange Brew" which we've never heard him play before. Buddy seemed to be on-point for most of the show taking the lead on most of the solos, but occasionally ceded the spotlight to his backup guitarist for some of the more challenging ones (which the backup guitarist did a phenomenal job at).
Speaking of the band, everyone was solid. The bassist and drum players didn't really stand out, but that's probably a good thing. The pianist was "playing hard" as his face would contort and his foot couldn't stop shaking. Needless to say it sounded great and was fun to watch.
As the show wrapped up around 10:15pm, Buddy left the stage and went straight to the front desk where he spent time with his fans shaking hands, signing autographs and taking pictures (however he only signs stuff that is bought at his place...after all he is a businessman).
So there you have it. We've seen him live, we've seen him on TV, but this was on a different level. We're fans of the blues, but even if you weren't you would still have a good time. Tickets are still available for a couple shows...so go check him out.
As Buddy would say, 'I'm just trying to keep the blues alive'.
Thanks to him, it's not just alive in the Sloop...it's thriving!